Give me a child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.
St Francis Xavier paraphrasing Aristotle (with a certain sinister undertone).
Amongst all the great apes, Homo sapiens has an unusual gift. The ability to hear a sound and then to copy it. This skill arises from an innate drive to learn language, and to communicate. This is a hard wired aid to social living that has developed over millions of years of evolution.
This drive to learn is seen in the “babbling” phase that we all pass through as infants. We make repetitive sounds, as if practicing, before we start to speak words. This stage occurs in children of all language groups, all of whom make similar sounds; it is also present in those children who are born deaf. Continue reading →
For weeks I’ve wanted to write about all that’s happened in my life in 2015, but I couldn’t find a good way to get at it. I keep thinking back to a rainy Sunday night, about a year ago, when I met two friends for dinner. One was pregnant and doing interesting research for her PhD in linguistics. She and her husband were thinking about buying a condo or moving to a new, baby-friendly apartment. The other, a psychologist, I hadn’t seen since August, when she was in the midst of a messy break up with a not-at-all-nice guy. But by March she was living happily with her new boyfriend—a man who seemed unbelievably successful and kind and good for her. A man she met the day after her break up. She told us about helping to raise his two kids, and her summer plans to attend conferences and visit…
When I grow up I wanna be famous I wanna be a star I wanna be in movies
When I grow up I wanna see the world Drive nice cars I wanna have groupies
Humankind is a very successful animal. Some two hundred thousand years ago, the entire human race consisted of a few thousand people living in Southern Africa. In the ensuing years, we have made full use of our adaptability and survival skills, and have spread to every corner of the globe on the way becoming the world’s dominant species. Our current population is heading for eight billion. Much of this success is due to our ability to survive against the odds.
The systems developed by the process of evolution to detect, and then react to danger, have stood us in good stead. However, these systems, designed to pick up the early signs of danger, can be very unhelpful in the digital age.
People today are in danger of drowning in information; but, because they have been taught that information is useful, they are more willing to drown than they need be.
If they could handle information, they would not have to drown at all.”
― Idries Shah, Reflections
Information is one thing that is plentiful in the twenty first century. It is said that one week of the New York Times contains more information than the average person, alive just fifty years ago, would have been exposed to in their entire lives. As well as the ever increasing availablity of information, the volume of data available seems to be expanding exponentially, and most of this is unfiltered. This knowledge revolution, while having many benefits, does come with a significant price.
Attention Deficit Trait (ADT) is a term that describes the effects of a persistent state of information overload that can be generated by the digital world. It was first used by psychiatrist, Edward Hallowell, in an article in the Harvard Business Review. He described a state “Marked by distractability, inner frenzy, and impatience…” occuring in business managers that turned “otherwise talented performers into harried underachievers.”
This condition although similar to ADHD, is caused by the environment in which we live and work. In other words it is something that we are doing to ourselves.
I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.
The term Mindfulness seems to be on everyone’s lips at the moment. A great deal of research has already been undertaken into its benefits, and these cover many of the domains of our daily lives .
Although much of this research has been carried out on adults, there is increasing evidence that there are also benefits for young people. Indeed, even the British government has started to advocate that it should be taught in schools.
Most of the people I know believe that their lives would be better if they had greater willpower. We all find it far too easy to sit down and watch the telly when we know we should be going out to the gym, or undertaking some other improving activity. There are lots of things that we would like to do more, and others that we would like to do less. Yet somehow, despite our best intentions, we find ourselves unable to find the motivation to keep going when we set out to make some new changes in our lives.
Willpower is one of the things that makes it possible to bring about successful change much more easily. A lack of willpower is the main reason cited when we do not follow through on positive changes in our lives. The American Psychological Association’s annual “Stress in America” survey published in 2011, showed that 27% of respondents reported lack of willpower as being the most significant barrier to bringing about change in their lives. The majority of respondents also believed that willpower was something that they could increase and develop through practice. Continue reading →
There are known knowns. These are things that we know we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things that we don’t know we don’t know. Donald Rumsfeld.
This quote is a wonderful example of using words to hide meaning. At the height of the first Gulf War it was made as part of an explanation for some error on behalf of the coalition forces.
On the surface it sounds like so much spin-doctor nonsense, however, it is in fact a very profound remark and goes beyond the usual level of awareness that many of us have about the workings of our own minds.
Donald Rumsfeld should perhaps have also gone on to mention unknown knowns. This may sound daft, but there are many things that we know at a non-conscious level, and of which we are not consciously aware, that have a significant influence on both our behaviour and well being.
These are the things we have programmed our brains to do without always allowing them into awareness. They are the subroutines that help us to react rapidly, but not always wisely, to events that occur in both in our internal and external worlds.
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